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MC’s Celebration of Culture Lets Local Residents ‘Travel the World in Their Own Backyard’

Colorful display tables will highlight the home countries of participating MC international students during the Celebration of Culture.
Colorful display tables will highlight the home countries of participating MC international students during the Celebration of Culture.

Vibrant traditional and casual clothing that demonstrates immense pride in one’s heritage.

Pleasing music that tantalizes the ear with melodic tones from far-away lands.

Tasty bites of authentic cuisine that enrich the palate with unique flavor combinations.

Illustrative posters packed with photos and information about other countries and customs.

The Office of Global Education at Mississippi College will host its annual Celebration of Culture, a rich educational experience for anyone interested in learning about different ways of life from throughout the world, from 4-6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 14, in Anderson Hall in the B.C. Rogers Student Center at Mississippi College.

Mei-Chi C. Piletz, executive director of global education at MC, describes the event as an opportunity for Clinton-area residents to travel the world in their own backyard.

“This is a great opportunity to celebrate the diversity God has given us and support our international student body,” Piletz said. “We want to emphasize diversity, and we want to emphasize inclusiveness. That’s the whole purpose.”

The event coincides with International Education Week 2022, Nov. 14-18, a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. The recognition promotes programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attracts future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences.

The timing couldn’t have been better, Piletz said, since the Celebration of Culture highlights the home countries of participating MC international students. Colorful display tables will line the perimeter of Anderson Hall, highlighting cultures from more than a dozen countries.

“It is a great opportunity for the community to get to know different countries and cultures, and a great opportunity for our international students to showcase their countries’ food, language, costumes – you name it,” Piletz said. “The event will give people a capsule look at these cultures.”

Matthew Tarigan, a junior electrical engineering major from Cikarang, West Java, Indonesia, is looking forward to joining his parents and a fellow student from his home country at the event and discussing the many wonderful aspects of Indonesian culture.

“We plan on sharing fun facts about our motherland and bringing homemade Indonesian cuisine, guaranteed to have more people explore non-American food,” Tarigan said. “I’m most excited about the potential lively conversations between American and international students and new friendships forming as a result.

“Who knows? Maybe our Indian students can make one or two American baseball fans fall in love with the game of cricket or a Mississippian share with Korean students about “Southern” barbecue. More importantly, I believe the Holy Spirit can use this event to initiate Gospel conversations.”

While most Americans gain exposure to other cultures through western media, Tarigan said that experience pales in comparison to learning directly from citizens of other countries.

“That’s what the Celebration of Culture is all about: we bring together MC’s international students from Nigeria, Taiwan, Germany, and many more countries in one space for one evening to share the lives of people outside of the U.S.

“Being more understanding about different cultures is a gateway to better inclusivity in our University’s student body. I encourage all students to come and seize this rare opportunity.”

Victorya Heng, a senior from Cambodia, majoring in computer science, participated in last year’s Celebration of Culture and is planning to make desserts from her home country this time.

“I think it is important for students to participate in this event, because they get to know a lot more about culture from different countries and also to experience different tastes of food from all over the world,” Heng said. “I am looking forward to showcasing my country, as well as explaining the culture and history to people, and experiencing other cultures as well.”

Piletz said students from 46 different countries attend MC. The Celebration of Culture helps international students feel included and allows them to celebrate their homelands.

This year’s event will highlight a pair of countries that have not been represented before: the Republic of Senegal, a tropical West African country known for its tradition of storytelling, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, a country in Western Asia that sits at the crossroads of Asia, Africa, and Europe. They will be among a wide array of countries represented at the celebration.

Piletz said members of the community who attended last year’s event described it as an “eye-opening experience.”

“One person said she knew nothing about one particular country, but she loved the music, tried a sample of the food, and got to know the students,” Piletz said. “She said she had no idea where it was on the map, but she found it very educational, entertaining, and fun.”

There is no charge to attend the event, but those who cannot attend in person can watch it virtually through the Study in the USA platform.

“Last year, we livestreamed the event, so whoever followed the Office of Global Education on Facebook could watch it live,” Piletz said. “This year, Study in the USA will do a social media takeover, and thousands of students all over the world will be able to watch.”

In addition to its educational aspect, the Celebration of Culture is an opportunity to let international students know they can find a home away from home at Mississippi College.

“Prospective students interested in coming to the U.S. to study can watch our Celebration of Culture,” Piletz said. “Some of our students host videos on their online platforms and reach out to other international students through social media. That helps, too.

“We want to put MC on the world map.”